This Cookware Claims to Teach You How to Cook. We Put It to the Test
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Improving from dabbling chef to something more — an actual home cook — is a tricky moment. You’re probably not whipping up big meals for groups of friends yet, but maybe you’re consistently pleasing yourself and a loved one. They brag about your cooking now and then. You’ve read a couple cookbooks (Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, maybe, or Barefoot Contessa). You can chop an onion in a minute flat, but you’re cutting with an old hand-me-down paring knife. You know how to make a pan sauce in your treasured cast iron. You cook a few things from scratch, but you also know how to spice up the store-bought basics. Your pot game is weak, but your pantry is stacked.
I find myself in this cooking moment. And while I’ve sought out new recipes and other cookbooks as informative and freeing as Samin Nosrat’s or Ina Garten’s, several companies have been thinking about selling me on elevating my cooking by upgrading my tools in the kitchen. One is Equal Parts, a cookware lifestyle brand that’s a member of the Pattern brand family, which also includes the organizational products sub-brand Open Spaces.
Pattern, Open Spaces and Equal Parts are all sunshine and friendliness — bright, cartoony websites, promises of health, happiness and sustainability. On its website, Equal Parts promised to be a brand that “capitalized on the rewarding aspects of cooking while lowering barriers. The whole approach is designed to make it easier to get started and stay in the flow with simple supplies and on-demand direction.”
What that translates to for the brand is a cookware stepping stone: pots and pans with features like ceramic non-stick coating, or a Chef’s knife made of German steel, within an affordable price range. Their Simple Kitchen set ($299), it was implied, would be my silver bullet for kitchen improvement. This seemed aimed right at my needs: a capsule of essentials for someone who already has the supporting cast of a few pots, cast iron and a spatula. The Simple Kitchen set includes a medium-sized, non-stick ceramic pot and pan; a full-tang German steel chef’s knife that they promised would stay sharper, longer; a cutting board; three prep bowls; a measuring set; and a colander in all black.
Overall, I enjoyed my new-and-improved kit. I did indeed use less oil in the non-stick pan, which Equal Parts touts as an easy health hack. I did not know I would feel cooler using an all-black colander — but, for some reason, I did. The cutting board, while nicely sized, had a few finishing issues, and developed a few dark spots from being washed relatively quickly; I went back to my old, oversized one. Ironically, I did minor damage to the baking sheet that was also sent to me when I tried to cut a pizza using my chef’s knife. Equal Parts warns to be careful with the non-stick coating. I did not. I started a new list of kitchen accoutrement I still needed, topped by a pizza cutter.
Maybe most importantly, the upgrade in kitchenware did boost my desire to cook and pushed my skills. The chef’s knife was my first, and while it’s no Korin, it let me really work on my knife skills for the first time. The prep bowls encouraged… well, prep. The measuring set encouraged… well, measuring.
And then there was the icing on the cake (well, maybe the garnish on the dish): If you buy something from Equal Parts, you get access to their Text a Chef feature. Shoot them a question from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday (2-6 on Sundays) and they’ll get back to you with an answer. I was skeptical. Can an algorithm be programmed to answer simple cooking questions? But shortly after I texted, my personal chef-on-demand, Joanie, responded with a few great tips about how to upgrade my homemade curry game (stick with the curry paste from the Thai grocery, but add in a few aromatics for extra flavor, she recommended, or maybe try a whole new type of curry with one of her favorite recipes). Joan was not an algorithm — or at least, she convinced me she was a chef and an educator who worked catering and answered newbie chef questions on the side.
So yes, I’d say I was a fit for Equal Parts’ newfangled consumerism version of getting better at cooking. The price was right for a decent cookware upgrade; I was not too beginner and not too advanced to benefit from their services. It felt like another alternative path to getting better at cooking, just like buying Nosrat’s book, which is more a textbook than a cookbook. The text-a-chef service’s usefulness might fade; I’m sure someday in the near future I would outgrow the mid-level pots, pans and chef’s knife. But isn’t that what a stepping stone is? The important question is, did it make me better at cooking? I can tell you — the proof is in the curry.
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